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Burlington Council Approves Innovative Heat Solution to Reduce Natural Gas Use

BURLINGTON, Vt. – The Burlington City Council has unanimously approved an ambitious plan to utilize the city’s electric plant to provide heat in the community. This innovative district energy plan aims to capture excess thermal energy and steam from the McNeil Generating Station and distribute it to buildings, reducing the reliance on natural gas and significantly advancing the city’s net-zero energy goals.

The plan, which involves combining waste heat, steam, and an electric boiler, will deliver steam efficiently through underground pipes to the University of Vermont Medical Center and potentially other customers along the way. This initiative is expected to decrease natural gas consumption in the commercial sector by 16%. Additionally, utilizing McNeil’s biomass power will move the city 7% closer to achieving its net-zero energy goals.

Supporters of the project emphasize its sustainability measures. The resolution outlines a commitment to explore more efficient practices and adopt ideas from the community to further improve the environmental footprint. The plan also includes a transition strategy to steer away from combustion-based energy production, exploring alternatives such as geothermal, battery storage, and solar energy.

Despite some concerns raised about the environmental impact of burning biomass, the resolution addresses these by implementing measures to minimize McNeil’s emissions. Furthermore, it pledges not to increase the amount of wood burned to meet heating demands.

Following the City Council’s approval, Burlington Electric will initiate contract discussions with entities like the UVM Medical Center. The subsequent step will involve securing Act 250 permits, allowing for the seamless implementation of the plan.

By embracing this groundbreaking district energy plan, Burlington is leading the way in sustainable and efficient heat production. This project showcases the city’s commitment to achieving its net-zero energy goals while reducing reliance on fossil fuels and embracing alternative energy sources.


What is the district energy plan in Burlington?

The district energy plan in Burlington aims to capture excess thermal energy and steam from the McNeil Generating Station and distribute it to buildings for heating purposes. This initiative reduces reliance on natural gas and contributes to the city’s net-zero energy goals.

How much will the plan reduce natural gas use?

By implementing the district energy plan, natural gas use in the commercial sector is expected to decrease by 16%.

What measures are being taken to minimize environmental impact?

The resolution includes measures to reduce emissions from McNeil Generating Station. It also outlines a transition strategy to explore alternative energy sources like geothermal, battery storage, and solar energy.

What are the next steps after the City Council’s approval?

Burlington Electric will enter into contract discussions with entities involved, such as the UVM Medical Center. Following this, the plan will proceed to secure Act 250 permits, enabling its implementation.

By Terence West

Terence West is a distinguished author and analyst specializing in the dynamics of energy infrastructure and its impact on American cities. His writings delve into the challenges and opportunities presented by the transition to renewable energy sources in urban settings. West's work is characterized by a deep understanding of both the technical and socio-economic aspects of urban energy systems. His insightful commentary on how cities can adapt to and benefit from emerging energy technologies has made him a respected voice in the discourse on sustainable urban development and energy policy in the United States.